Attorneys for Fox News filed individual motions Thursday night to dismiss Smartmatic’s defamation lawsuit on behalf of Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, three anchors who have been named in the matter in which the voting technology company is seeking a whopping $2.7 billion.
The three motions were filed by Kirkland & Ellis, the law firm representing Fox News in the matter. Smartmatic, a maker of technology used in election tabulation and voting, last week filed a lawsuit in Supreme Court in the State of New York, citing efforts made on Fox News programs to disparage the company’s business. Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, two attorneys who had been working for President Donald Trump in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election that resulted in victory for President Joe Biden, are also named in the suit. Fox News previously filed its own motion to dismiss.
At issue are segments Fox News aired in which commentators offered false characterizations of the role of Smartmatic’s role and influence in the 2020 election. Smartmatic in its initial suit alleged Fox News had “damaged democracy worldwide and irreparably harmed Smartmatic and other stakeholders who contribute to modern elections.” Smartmatic cited 13 different reports on Fox News Media programs falsely claiming Smartmatic helped “steal the election” for the victors.
Fox News, however, has said the network was fulfilling its role: interviewing people in the news to present information of value to its audience.
In their motions, the anchors made similar arguments. “Maria Bartiromo did her job: She covered the unquestionably newsworthy story,” her filing states, noting that the First Amendement “entitles journalists like Bartiromo to interview people on both sides of a heated and actively litigated controversy.”
Pirro’s motion alleges the Smartmatic suit made an “abject failure to make sufficient allegations concerning Pirro herself.”
The Dobbs motion claims Smartmatic’s suit “comes nowhere close to alleging the type of intent required to pierce First Amendment protections and hold a commentator liable for reporting on newsworthy matters of the highest order. The lawsuit appears to be keeping Fox News and Dobbs aligned, even though the media company recently cancelled his long-running Fox Business Network program — that network’s most-watched program. Dobbs is said to remain an employee of Fox News, even though he is not expected to return to air.
The damages sought are significant. Walt Disney’s ABC News in 2017 grappled with a $1.9 billion lawsuit from a South Dakota meat producer that alleged the news operation defamed Beef Products Inc. about the safety of low-cost processed beef trimmings referred to in a report as “pink slime.” Disney subsequently disclosed costs of $177 million related to the settlement of the case. An attorney for Smartmatic, J. Erik Connolly, an attorney at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, LLP, helped represent Beef Products in its lawsuit against ABC News.
Smartmatic’s legal maneuver follows that of Dominion Voting Systems, another voting technology firm. That company last month filed individual lawsuits against Giulilani and Powell. Like Smartmatic, Dominion has been cited in speculation about there being massive election fraud in the 2020 run-off, a claim which has been proven to be false and inaccurate.
Fox News has taken actions that suggest these legal matters are of concern. Fox News in December aired prerecorded segments in shows led by the three anchors cited in the lawsuit in which Eddie Perez, an election expert, answers questions from an off-camera questioner. Perez was asked to point to errors in statements made on the shows about the voting-technology firms. Smartmatic had sent a letter seeking a correction and suggesting legal action could be imminent.